|Born||30 June 1685|
|Died||4 December 1732 47) (aged|
|Known for||Poetry, drama, ballad opera|
|Notable work||The Beggar's Opera|
|Patron(s)||William Pulteney, 1st Earl of Bath; The third Earl of Burlington; Charles Douglas, 3rd Duke of Queensberry; Prince William, Duke of Cumberland|
John Gay (30 June 1685 – 4 December 1732) was an English poet and dramatist and member of the Scriblerus Club.  He is best remembered for The Beggar's Opera (1728), a ballad opera.  The characters, including Captain Macheath and Polly Peachum, became household names. 
Gay was born in Barnstaple, England, last of five children of William Gay (died 1695) and Katherine (died 1694), daughter of Jonathan Hanmer, "the leading Nonconformist divine of the town"  as founder of the Independent Dissenting congregation in Barnstaple. The Gay family- "fairly comfortable... though far from rich"-  lived in "a large house, called the Red Cross, on the corner of Joy Street".  The Gay family was "of respectable antiquity" in North Devon, associated with the manor of Goldsworthy at Parkham and with the parish of Frithelstock (where the senior line remained, resident at the priory Cloister Hall with its lands, until 1823)  and became "powerful and numerous" in the town, "established among Barnstaple's leading families for generations".  Gay's great-grandfather, Anthony Gay, served as Mayor;  his wife, Elizabeth, was daughter of the merchant and three-time Mayor of Barnstaple, Richard Beaple.  Gay was educated at the town's grammar school. On leaving school- his elder brother, Jonathan, an Army officer, having inherited the family property-  Gay was apprenticed to a silk mercer in London, but being weary, according to Samuel Johnson, "of either the restraint or the servility of his occupation", he soon returned to Barnstaple, where he was educated by his uncle, the Rev. John Hanmer, the nonconformist minister of the town. He then returned to London. 
His first play, The Mohocks (1712), had censorship issues. The following year he wrote a comedy The Wife of Bath , which appeared at the Drury Lane Theatre. 
The dedication of his Rural Sports (1713) to Alexander Pope began a lasting friendship with him. In 1714, Gay wrote The Shepherd's Week, a series of six pastorals drawn from English rustic life. Pope had urged him to undertake this in order to ridicule the Arcadian pastorals of Ambrose Philips, who had been praised by a short-lived contemporary publication The Guardian , to the neglect of Pope's claim to be the first pastoral writer of the age and the true English Theocritus. Gay's pastorals achieved this goal and his ludicrous pictures of the English country lads and their loves were found to be entertaining on their own account. 
In 1713 Gay and Pope both joined the Scriblerus Club, a group of Tory writers supportive of first minister Robert Harley that also included John Arbuthnot, Jonathan Swift and Thomas Parnell. 
In 1714 Gay was appointed secretary to the Earl of Clarendon the new British ambassador to the Electorate of Hanover through the influence of Swift. However the death of Queen Anne three months later put an end to his hopes of official employment.  The mission had been an unsuccessful attempt by the Tories to ingratiate themselves with Elector George, heir to the throne, who was angry that the Peace of Utrecht had led to Britain's abandoning its allies in the war against France and suspected that the Tory leadership favoured the Jacobites.
The Hanoverian succession led to the ousting of the Harley Ministry and establishment of the Whig oligarchy and Gay never held a government post again. While in Hanover he met Caroline of Ansbach, the future Princess of Wales, and Henrietta Howard, who would become a close friend of his. 
In 1715, probably with some help from Pope, Gay produced The What D'Ye Call It?, a dramatic skit on contemporary tragedy, with special reference to Thomas Otway's Venice Preserv'd . This appeared on 23 February 1715 as an afterpiece at Drury Lane to Nicholas Rowe's tragedy Jane Shore .  It left the public so ignorant of its inner meaning that Lewis Theobald and Benjamin Griffin published a Complete Key to What D'Ye Call It to explain it. The play also featured a ballad, Twas When the Seas Were Roaring, co-written with George Frideric Handel, which became popular in its own right.
In 1716 appeared his Trivia, or the Art of Walking the Streets of London , a poem in three books, for which he acknowledged receiving several hints from Swift. It contains graphic and humorous descriptions of the London of that period, depicting the city with photographic accuracy and acting as a guide to the upper-class and upper-middle-class walkers of society. By taking a mock-heroic form, Gay's poem was able to poke fun at the notion of complete reformation of street civility, while also proposing an idea of reform in terms of the attitude towards walking. In January 1717 he produced a comedy, Three Hours After Marriage , which was thought to be grossly indecent (without being amusing) and a failure. He had assistance from Pope and John Arbuthnot, but they allowed it to be assumed that Gay was the sole author. 
By 1717 Gay was associated with George, Princes of Wales, who as part of the Whig Split had set up a rival court to his father the King which was frequented by opposition Whigs and Tories.  In 1718 he collaborated with Handel on the masque Acis and Galatea for which he supplied the libretto.
Gay had numerous patrons, and in 1720 he published Poems on Several Occasions by subscription, taking in £1000 or more. In that year James Craggs, the secretary of state, presented him with some South Sea stock. Gay, disregarding the advice of Pope and others of his friends, invested all his money in South Sea stock, and, holding on to the end of the South Sea Bubble, he lost everything. The shock is said to have made him dangerously ill. His friends did not fail him at this juncture. He had patrons in William Pulteney, afterwards Earl of Bath, in the third Earl of Burlington, who constantly entertained him at Chiswick or at Burlington House, and in the Duke and Duchess of Queensberry. He was a frequent visitor with Pope, and received unvarying kindness from William Congreve and John Arbuthnot.
In 1727 he wrote for six-year-old Prince William, later the Duke of Cumberland, Fifty-one Fables in Verse, for which he naturally hoped to gain some preferment, although he has much to say in them of the servility of courtiers and the vanity of court honours. He was offered the situation of gentleman-usher to the Princess Louisa, who was also still a child. He refused this offer, all his friends seemingly having regarded it- "for no very obvious reason"- as an indignity. His friends thought him unfairly neglected, but Gay, who had never rendered any special services to the court, had nevertheless been given a sinecure as lottery commissioner with a salary of £150 a year in 1722, and from 1722 to 1729 had lodgings in the palace at Whitehall. 
He certainly did nothing to conciliate the favour of the government by his next work, The Beggar's Opera , a ballad opera produced on the 29 January 1728 by John Rich, in which Sir Robert Walpole was caricatured. This famous piece, which was said to have made "Rich gay and Gay rich", was an innovation in many respects.
The satire of the play has a double allegory. The character of Peachum was inspired by the thief-taker Jonathan Wild, executed in 1725, and the principal figure of Macheath reflected memories of the French highwayman, Claude Duval, whose execution had created a sensation in London, and who exemplified the flamboyance and gallantry of Gay's literary hero. Gay's decision to launch the work was probably also influenced by the huge interest that Jack Sheppard, a cockney housebreaker, had created in all things relating to Newgate Prison. However, the character of Peachum was also understood to represent Robert Walpole, who, like Wild, was seen as a public but morally dubious character, and whose government had been tolerant of Wild's thievery and the South Sea directors' escape from punishment. Under cover of the thieves and highwaymen who figured in it was disguised a satire on society, for Gay made it plain that in describing the moral code of his characters he had in mind the corruptions of the governing class. Part of the success of The Beggar's Opera may have been due to the acting of Lavinia Fenton, afterwards Duchess of Bolton, in the part of Polly Peachum. The airs of the Beggar's Opera in part allude to well-known popular ballads, and Gay's lyrics sometimes play with their wording in order to amuse and entertain the audience. 
The play ran for sixty-two nights. Swift is said to have suggested the subject, and Pope and Arbuthnot were constantly consulted while the work was in progress, but Gay must be regarded as the sole author. After seeing an early version of the work, Swift was optimistic of its commercial prospects but famously warned Gay to be cautious with his earnings: "I beg you will be thrifty and learn to value a shilling." 
He wrote a sequel, Polly , relating the adventures of Polly Peachum in the West Indies; its production was forbidden by the Lord Chamberlain, no doubt through the influence of Walpole. This act of "oppression" caused no loss to Gay. It proved an excellent advertisement for Polly, which was published by subscription in 1729, and brought its author several thousand pounds. The Duchess of Queensberry was dismissed from court for enlisting subscribers in the palace. In 1730 Gay's substantially rewritten version of his 1713 play The Wife of Bath appeared at the Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre, lasting for three nights. 
The Duke of Queensberry gave Gay a home, and the duchess continued her affectionate patronage until Gay's death in London on 4 December 1732. He was buried in Westminster Abbey. The epitaph on his tomb is by Pope, and is followed by Gay's own mocking couplet: 
Life is a jest, and all things show it,
I thought so once, but now I know it.
Among Gay's works are:
Jonathan Swift was an Anglo-Irish satirist, author, essayist, political pamphleteer, poet, and Anglican cleric who became Dean of St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, hence his common sobriquet, "Dean Swift".
The Threepenny Opera is a "play with music" by Bertolt Brecht, adapted from a translation by Elisabeth Hauptmann of John Gay's 18th-century English ballad opera, The Beggar's Opera, and four ballads by François Villon, with music by Kurt Weill. Although there is debate as to how much, if any, Hauptmann might have contributed to the text, Brecht is usually listed as sole author.
John Arbuthnot FRS, often known simply as Dr Arbuthnot, was a Scottish physician, satirist and polymath in London. He is best remembered for his contributions to mathematics, his membership in the Scriblerus Club, and for inventing the figure of John Bull.
The Beggar's Opera is a ballad opera in three acts written in 1728 by John Gay with music arranged by Johann Christoph Pepusch. It is one of the watershed plays in Augustan drama and is the only example of the once thriving genre of satirical ballad opera to remain popular today. Ballad operas were satiric musical plays that used some of the conventions of opera, but without recitative. The lyrics of the airs in the piece are set to popular broadsheet ballads, opera arias, church hymns and folk tunes of the time.
Edmund Curll was an English bookseller and publisher. His name has become synonymous, through the attacks on him by Alexander Pope, with unscrupulous publication and publicity. Curll rose from poverty to wealth through his publishing, and he did this by approaching book printing in a mercenary and unscrupulous manner. By cashing in on scandals, publishing pornography, offering up patent medicine, using all publicity as good publicity, he managed a small empire of printing houses. He would publish high and low quality writing alike, so long as it sold. He was born in the West Country, and his late and incomplete recollections say that his father was a tradesman. He was an apprentice to a London bookseller in 1698 when he began his career.
Henry Carey was an English poet, dramatist and songwriter. He is remembered as an anti-Walpolean satirist and also as a patriot. Several of his melodies continue to be sung today, and he was widely praised in the generation after his death. Because he worked in anonymity, selling his own compositions to others to pass off as their own, contemporary scholarship can only be certain of some of his poetry, and a great deal of the music he composed was written for theatrical incidental music. However, under his own name and hand, he was a prolific songwriter and balladeer, and he wrote the lyrics for almost all of these songs. Further, he wrote numerous operas and plays. His life is illustrative of the professional author in the early 18th century. Without inheritance or title or governmental position, he wrote for all of the remunerative venues, and yet he also kept his own political point of view and was able to score significant points against the ministry of the day. Further, he was one of the leading lights of the new "Patriotic" movement in drama.
Lavinia Powlett, Duchess of Bolton, known by her stagename as Lavinia Fenton, was an English actress who was the mistress and later the wife of the 3rd Duke of Bolton.
Augustan literature is a style of British literature produced during the reigns of Queen Anne, King George I, and George II in the first half of the 18th century and ending in the 1740s, with the deaths of Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift, in 1744 and 1745, respectively. It was a literary epoch that featured the rapid development of the novel, an explosion in satire, the mutation of drama from political satire into melodrama and an evolution toward poetry of personal exploration. In philosophy, it was an age increasingly dominated by empiricism, while in the writings of political economy, it marked the evolution of mercantilism as a formal philosophy, the development of capitalism and the triumph of trade.
Leonard Welsted was an English poet and "dunce" in Alexander Pope's writings. Welsted was an accomplished writer who composed in a relaxed, light hearted vein. He was associated with Whig party political figures in his later years, but he was tory earlier, and, in the age of patronage, this seems to have been more out of financial need than anything else.
The Beggar's Opera is a 1953 British historical musical film, a Technicolor adaptation of John Gay's 1728 ballad opera of the same name. The film, directed by Peter Brook in his feature film debut, stars Laurence Olivier, Hugh Griffith, Dorothy Tutin, Stanley Holloway, Daphne Anderson and Athene Seyler. Olivier and Holloway provide their own singing, but Tutin and others were dubbed.
Augustan drama can refer to the dramas of Ancient Rome during the reign of Caesar Augustus, but it most commonly refers to the plays of Great Britain in the early 18th century, a subset of 18th-century Augustan literature. King George I referred to himself as "Augustus," and the poets of the era took this reference as apropos, as the literature of Rome during Augustus moved from historical and didactic poetry to the poetry of highly finished and sophisticated epics and satire.
Beggar's Holiday is a musical with a book and lyrics by John La Touche and music by Duke Ellington.
Thomas Cooke, often called "Hesiod" Cooke, was a very active English translator and author who ran afoul of Alexander Pope and was mentioned as one of the "dunces" in Pope's Dunciad. His father was an innkeeper. He was educated at Felsted. Cooke arrived in London in 1722 and began working as a writer for the Whig causes. He associated with Thomas Tickell, Ambrose Philips, Leonard Welsted, Richard Steele, and John Dennis. Cooke is the source of one of the primary biographies of John Dennis, which he wrote in Latin.
Three Hours After Marriage was a restoration comedy, written in 1717 as a collaboration between John Gay, Alexander Pope and John Arbuthnot, though Gay was the principal author. The play is best described as a satirical farce, and among its satirical targets was Richard Blackmore.
Polly is a ballad opera with text by John Gay and music by Johann Christoph Pepusch. It is a sequel to Gay's The Beggar's Opera. Due to censorship, the opera was not performed in Gay's lifetime. It had its world premiere on 19 June 1777 at the Haymarket Theatre in London. A revised and edited version of the score by Clifford Bax and Frederic Austin premiered on 30 December 1922 at the Kingsway Theatre in London.
Catherine Hyde, afterwards Duchess of Queensberry, was an English socialite in London and a patron of the dramatist John Gay.
Hannah Norsa was an English Jewish actress and singer, who achieved fame appearing in John Gay's The Beggar's Opera in 1732 and became the mistress of Robert Walpole, 2nd Earl of Orford.
John Hippisley was an English comic actor and playwright. He appeared at Lincoln's Inn Fields and Covent Garden in London, and was the original Peachum in The Beggar's Opera. He opened a theatre in Bristol, the Jacobs Well Theatre, where he and his daughter Elizabeth Hippisley appeared.
The Wife of Bath is a 1713 comedy play by the British writer John Gay. It was inspired by The Wife of Bath's Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer. The play marked a conscious switch by Gay towards an apolitical and distant past, after his contemporary work The Mohocks had faced controversy and censorship the previous year. Robert Wilks, a celebrated actor and manager of the Drury Lane Theatre, appeared as Chaucer. The title role of the wife was played by Margaret Bicknell with Mary Porter as Myrtilla and the cast rounded out by William Bullock, Lacy Ryan, Christopher Bullock, William Pinkethman, Susanna Mountfort and Henry Norris.
The Mount, or Polly Peachum's Tower, is a hunting tower near Wensley and about a mile south-east of Bolton Hall, in North Yorkshire, England. It is a Grade II listed building.